Nicholls holds no ground fears for Dulcote

Paul Nicholls is not concerned about the prospect of testing ground for Hennessy Gold Cup favourite Pride Of Dulcote.

Paul Nicholls is not concerned about the prospect of testing ground for Hennessy Gold Cup favourite Pride Of Dulcote.

The eight-year-old made a winning debut over fences at Worcester in October 2009 and was sidelined for over a year before a comeback victory over Punchestowns at Newbury.

The champion trainer admits his charge has much more on his plate in Sunday’s Grade One event at Leopardstown, but with plenty of rain forecast to hit Dublin over the next 24 hours, he hopes Pride Of Dulcote will up to the task.

“He’s in good form and he’s won on heavy ground before, so the rain they’re forecast won’t be a problem for him,” said Nicholls.

“It’s a big step up in class, but it’s the ideal race to go for at this stage and it will tell us a lot more about where we are with him.”

It will be the highest-profile ride of jockey Nick Scholfield’s career, but Nicholls is happy to let him keep the ride.

“It’s a good opportunity for Nick, but he’s won on the horse a couple of times and we’ve stuck by him with Ruby (Walsh) out of action,” the trainer added.

Willie Mullins fires two bullets at the race in Cooldine and Kempes.

Cooldine was beaten just a neck by Joncol in the race 12 months ago but has failed to rediscover that form so far this season, while Kempes was still in contention when unseating Tony McCoy at the second-last in the Lexus Chase last time.

“Cooldine has been frustrating. He ran well in the Hennessy last year where he just got beaten a neck, but he just hasn’t hit form yet this year,” said Mullins.

“I’m hoping, more than expecting, with him and any rain would be in his favour.

“I thought Kempes was running a cracker in the Lexus.

“If we have a bit of drying weather it would suit him, so hopefully we have a horse for each eventuality.”

Nicky Richards hopes Money Trix will finally get his day in the sun when he returns to Ireland for the third time on the bounce.

Last season the 11-year-old was narrowly held in the Lexus Chase before disappointing in the Irish Hennessy.

He again filled the runner-up spot behind Pandorama on his reappearance in the former contest.

“He’s done grand since his last run. The weather has been a lot kinder to us and there have been no interruptions,” said the Greystoke handler.

“He has done all of his work and is in good form. That last outing was a good, solid run and he probably ran into a very good young horse.

“Unfortunately the winner won’t be there on Sunday, which is a shame for his connections, but hopefully we might take advantage.

“I suppose I would be worried about Joncol, but there’s not a lot between them and you could spin a coin.

“You have also always got to be frightened of Mr (Paul) Nicholls but Pride Of Dulcote is stepping up a bit and how good he is, we’ll see at the weekend.

“I hope that if they get a bit of rain, my fellow will be very competitive.

“He has been knocking on the door and probably deserves a big one and if it’s on Sunday, I’ll be very grateful.”

Joncol is bidding for back-to-back Hennessy victories and was third in the Lexus Chase over Christmas.

Trainer Paul Nolan said: “His preparation has gone well since the Lexus and hopefully we’ll get there in good shape.

“He has to improve to win this race, but hopefully he will, although Pride Of Dulcote is a 14-1 chance for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and is a worthy favourite who will take some beating.

“As he is a Paul Nicholls-trained horse, you have to respect him.”

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